Surf Shacks 061

Kelly Conway + DL Tashjian
St. Augustine, FL

Matt Titone

This is a classic tale of a kindred spirit roomie situation. Kelly is a photographer who has travelled the world and ended up moving back to his hometown of St. Augustine recently, whereas DL is a musician from the Northeast who has randomly found himself living in the nation’s oldest city. It is a quintessential new bohemian setup starring two extremely stoked and equally cynical “artsy surfer dudes” in their thirties raising stray cats in a house somewhere between Lebowski’s bachelor pad and True Detective (the season with McConaughey and Woody of course).

Who are you? Tell us a little about yourselves.

Kelly: I grew up here with coquina in my hair. I work as a photographer. Lately I’ve been running a fine art print studio that I’m hoping to turn into a gallery space and local art resource.

DL: I grew up in the northeast now live here. I’m a songwriter and a terrible cook.

How did you two meet and become roommates?

Kelly: We met through St. Augustine’s ultimate friendship ambassador, Ty Williams. I think he coaxed DL down from NY with the promise of playful sand bars, cold beers and fish sandwiches. I think he also pulled the “Tom Petty once had a beach house here” card. He’s been a nice sonic addition to the region and it’s been a genuine pleasure to hear him put together his new round of songs.

DL: I’ve been here for about a year now. I was looking for a temporary escape from New York and Ty invited me to hang and write in his garage studio for a few months. Like Kelly said, I got hooked and eventually let go of my spot in Brooklyn. I had met Kelly a couple times and thought he was this super cool, eccentric local legend… I think Ty and Kelly had some “beef” and I was the catalyst for their getting over it. Anyways, I had left Ty’s garage and was actively looking for a new spot, Kelly found this amazing house.

What are your favorite parts about Florida, St. Augustine, and the area in which you live?

Kelly: A quick list: fishing pier concession stands, biker bars with questionable swimming pools, art deco motels doubling as emporiums of sketch, datil peppers/ square groupers, derelict sailboats and the oddly brilliant people who sometimes inhabit them.

Florida gets a bad rap sometimes. What would you want more people to know about Florida?

Kelly: It’s as bad as you want it to be, but mostly in a good way. In seriousness, I’m not sure if I could live in Florida if it weren’t for Saint Augustine. It can be very humid. Pack sandals, forget underwear.

DL: I’d like to visit more springs. I didn’t learn until I got here that there are hundreds of incredibly blue freshwater springs with all types of wildlife and cave systems etc. that run through FL.

Where are your favorite places to surf around here?

Kelly: Blowhole circa ’78, Middles circa ’93, Vilano when it makes its mind up, Southside Matanzas when it does its quasi-sand point thing, and the beach streets when I’m feeling lazy.

DL: I prefer Vilano to the island, it’s got a nice vibe to it. Also, down by Matanzas — so long as the sharks are on holiday.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Check out Kelly's photography at seankellyconway.com
Matt Titone

Kelly, when did you move back to St. A? Tell us about your time living abroad. Why did you ultimately decide to move home?

I’ve been back in town for about five years. After college I skipped out to Asia for most of my twenties. I taught business, English and did a smattering of photo work. Surfed some waves here and there. After a while I thought I might be one of those oddball ex-pats who can never go home and that kind of started to scare me. I started having these southern gothic dreams about fish camps, cypress knots, outboard motors. I guess I realized there were still some things about the region I’d never really reconciled with.

What was it like for you growing up as a young surfer here?

The waves seemed bigger back then, but I was also smaller. Just like anywhere, there was pantheon of local legends. I got sprayed in the face a lot paddling over the shoulder at Vilano.

How has St. A changed since you were younger growing up here?

I’m very inspired by the sort of cultural surge that’s happened here in the past several years. I’ve always enjoyed the local character but it’s been so great to see all my friends and peers enhance that. Saint Augustine has always been eclectic and it’s nice to see guys and gals building new businesses that add to that. Places and brands like the Floridian, Iceplant, Yield, Cambium, etc. have really made Saint Augustine a great place to consider staying around.

As a photographer, what inspires you as far as local subject matter?

Shirtless couples in their mid-thirties riding BMX bikes behind strip malls, marina ephemera, anything beach macabre, tourist stands, that terrifying post thunderstorm dusk light, people who live on sailboats with no masts, ice-cream puddles, benevolent crime scenes, just the regular Florida roadside vernacular.

Tell us about the local print shop you’ve started running.

Yeah, I’ve kind of been lucky to have this opportunity to take over a business doing fine art printing, artwork reproduction, etc. I’m really hoping to create a space to showcase and represent regional artists. It’s still very fledgling but I think it has promise.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Check out more of DL's music at dlisok.com and on Spotify: "DL is OK" Matt Titone

DL, what were you up to in New York before you moved down here?

I started out working at a number of music studios and a couple record labels. In the middle of that I studied at NYU. Eventually a part time job for Patagonia morphed into a larger, full-time position. I wound up helping open and then ran their first east coast surf shop on the Bowery for a little over four years. All the while still I was trying to write, record and get on the road when possible.

What are you up to now that you live in St. A?

One of the reasons I was able to stay in town is that I met and started working for the amazing and talented crew over at YIELD. So that. I’ve been writing a ton of music. Annnd every Thursday I go to the same spot to have a piña colada and watch the sunset. Also I’ve been doing quite a bit of “the surfing.”

What have been the biggest culture shocks / changes in your lifestyle in moving from NYC to a smaller town in the south?

I can comfortably surf before work, on my lunch break and again after work (depending on time of year) because it only takes me about 10 minutes from door to barrel. Umm. No subway is a big plus for the commute, which takes me about 5 minutes on a bike or 1 minute in a car. Riding bikes is also a whole different experience down here. There are so many galvanized individuals in a place so far from NYC or LA… I always was told that location and physical proximity to a specific industry or culture was crucial. It’s no secret that this is no longer the truth and the community in St. Augustine is definitive proof of that.

Has your music changed at all since the move?

I mean, yeah. Aside from all the energy associated with writing about a new zone and new experiences, it’s been inspiring to see New York life from a distance… That place runs at a different speed.

Where can we catch you play around here?

I actually am just putting the final touches on a record which means I’ll be shifting into playing out mode pretty soon. If it’s here, I’d really love to do a few nights at Tradewinds. That place is the stuff of legend. Rumor has it (Tom) Petty would show up every once in a while… At least Kelly told me that. And if you don’t live in Florida, you can also check me out on Spotify here.

Matt Titone

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Matt Titone

A goofy-footed designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director before moving west to Venice Beach, California in 2006 where he ended up co-founding ITAL/C Studio and tries very hard to avoid crowds & traffic. While not in the studio, he enjoys surfing as much as possible, snowboarding, paddle tennis, hiking, camping, and watching the Eagles play at Sports Harbor.

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